Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence Bill abuses employers

Domestic abuse charity Shine supports Green MP Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill which will allow victims of domestic violence in employment to take paid leave if needed. Ms Logie’s members’ bill is set down for its first reading on Wednesday and will likely come up for a vote on 8th of March. A similar law exists in many Australian states and research shows only .02% of employees are using this leave provision. But for that .02%, this leave may make a major difference in helping them to remain employed while going through a crisis.

Shine’s DVFREE workplace programme coordinator Graham Barnes says, “Employment provides critical networks and financial support for many victims of domestic abuse that can be a path to safety. Having this special leave provision enshrined in law will be a minimal cost to employers and potentially have a major impact on those who need it most, allowing them to remain employed – a win-win for the employee in this situation and for their employer.”

Research by Jim Stanford, Ph.D. of Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute (December 2016) shows that the status quo is not ‘free’; cost of domestic violence to employers includes lost work time, (even if unpaid) reduced productivity, higher turnover and resulting recruitment and training costs, risks of violence spilling over into the workplace, reputational risks with customers and other employees. Domestic violence appears to cost about one percent of gross domestic product every year.

There is absolutely no way that an employer should be liable because an employee is assaulted at home.   If this is a good idea, and I’m far from believing it is, then this should be a centrally funded benefit to both the employer and the employee.  Both are, after all, victims here.  

The costs of providing 10 days special domestic violence related leave per year are negligible

15% of all paid employees in Australia (1.6 million workers) already have paid leave for domestic violence

Concerns that victims might abuse extra leave offered were unjustified; most victims are reluctant to use services available to them currently, and need encouragement to take those measures. Average leave periods were rarely reported to be longer than a week

Opposition to the leave proposals wrongly assumed a high rate of utilisation-that 25% of all women 10% of all men would use the entire 10 days every year; in fact, the utilisation rate of domestic violence paid leave in Australia where available is actually 0.022%-0.31%

Between one quarter and one fifth of female victims take paid leave when available; male victims are half as likely to take leave as female victims Benefits to employers of paid domestic violence leave include reduced absenteeism, reduced turnover, improved productivity, and reduced incidence of violence

Costs of replacing a single employee are estimated at $20,000 (advertising, interviewing, hiring, training, ramping up)

It’s all very well to try and convince employers to pay for this to try and avoid higher costs.   But the logic doesn’t stack up.   The same would then hold true if any other thing happens outside of work that has an impact on the employee’s ability to perform for the company.  Birth, illness of dependants, death, diagnosis of a serious disease, house burnt down, loss of a child, and so on.

The bottom line remains that companies should never be legally liable for problems that aren’t their responsibility.   If companies value their employee in strife, they may in fact choose to take the financial hit and support paid absence, glide time and ensure the job is there until it is sorted.

Jan Logie is an extremist and not a good advocate for women’s issues.  She’s overcooked this one by trying to shift the cost onto business instead of making it a societal cost under the health system.

 


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